Farm Lab: $2,000,000 Fake Farm

District spending $300,000 a year and nearly $2,000,000 on “farm”

Superintendent Baird and EUSD school board supporting wealthy special interest groups, not student academic needs.

Farm Lab; Fact or Fiction  The EUSD Farm Lab site was gifted by the developer of Encinitas Ranch to the District in 2004 and they promptly decided that the demographics would not warrant another elementary school.  Now in 2016 it is listed as a school complete with “traffic calming”.

This is not a question of whether or not you are in favor of agriculture or urban farming or any of that.  We all like going to Farmer’s Markets, etc.  This is a question of priorities and;

a. What is the function of an elementary school Board of Education, and

b. What is the appropriate use of our limited taxpayer funds?

EUSD was paying a penalty tax annually for not using the property.  By 2014, nearly $1,700,000 was spent for a driveway, fences and 4 mobile classrooms.  Utilities have been run to the property, reclaimed water which can’t be used there, and hundreds of thousands in consulting fees making the total around $2,000,000 borrowed from Proposition P.  However, they plan to pump several million more taxpayer dollars into it to complete their plan.  Their goal is to pump in $6,700,000 and they now have an ongoing expense of over $300,000 per year which will only grow.  Now they have just hired a former kindergarten teacher full time so we will be around $400,000 per year.

So, to cure a $56,000 tax problem EUSD created a $2,000,000 solution that costs $400,000 per year, $33,000 every month, in overhead, as publicly stated by the Farm Director and the Superintendent.  That does not take into account many variables and certainly does not consider the interest on the borrowed Prop P funds.

Prop P is a General Obligation Bond guaranteed by the “full faith and credit” of the taxpayers in our school district.  Bonds are debts that are repaid over 25‐30 years at a rate of interest.  It was passed in 2010 to:

To improve the quality of education, upgrade computers and technology, improve energy efficiency/water conservation, replace aging roofs, upgrade inadequate electrical, plumbing, heating/ventilation/air-conditioning systems, renovate outdated classrooms, restrooms, and school facilities, and make health, safety and handicapped accessibility improvements, shall Encinitas Union School District acquire, construct, upgrade, and equip school facilities by issuing $44,200,000 of bonds at legal rates, with independent citizens’ oversight, no money used for administrative salaries, or be taken by the State?

They slipped in the part about building a Fake Farm.  Regardless of the stated goals of the Farm Lab by the Superintendent and the Farm Lab Director, neither of whom have any agriculture nor educational background whatsoever, this is not about growing vegetables.  There is no way they could grow enough of anything in this vacant lot to offset the extreme cost of this endeavor so forget the math.  I suspect most of the food goes to feed the homeless and underprivileged.  It did last year and how much lettuce do kids eat?  Nice but not what we hired these people to do.  Farm Lab is simply expensive theater.  The District currently pays $65,000 per year for fresh produce.  They want to offset that cost with a $400,000 per year program?

The Director, Michelove, and her partner, Sowinsky are paid as staff employees of the District.   They also own a non‐profit that receives grant money for consulting on EUSD Ocean Knoll and Farm Lab.  They are paid from that non‐profit as well.  They farm grants not plants.  This is not about “teaching kids where their food comes from” nor is it about feeding the kids in our non‐ existent cafeterias.  We only have one central kitchen for 9 schools and most kids bring lunch.   There is no real food prep, storage or service abilities in the schools.  They eat outdoors.

EUSD stated Mission Statement for Farm Lab: This ten‐‐‐acre agricultural space serves as a satellite campus for students.  Design, Research, Engineering, Art, Math and Science (DREAMS) based educational activities will focus on learning about nutrition and the environment through a game‐‐‐based approach.

They made that acronym up.  We know that teaching to a STEM (Science, Technology, Math and Science) program will get your child into college and find a job but they are going to change that starting here in K‐6.  How will they implement this?  Who teaches your children and where?  How is this part of the approved State curriculum for elementary school children?   What does this cost and how are they supposed to get there?  It speaks volumes that they picked a kindergarten teacher for Farm Lab.  What will she do all day?

In 2014 Baird signed a Memorandum of Understanding that included the EUSD Farm Lab in the “E3 Cluster”, a group of six like‐minded organizations in the area that supposedly formed to collaborate on education and health initiatives. E3 members include the Leichtag Foundation’s 65 acre site off Saxony Rd, San Dieguito Heritage Museum, 35 acre San Diego Botanic Garden, Encinitas Union School District, Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA and Seacrest Village (Senior Living project owned by Leitchtag).  It obligates each of the members to the other pledging that their resources will be shared.  What resources does EUSD have?  Taxpayer dollars and our children’s minds!

Who’s Who?

The Leitchtag Foundation, a large Jewish Philanthropy group, is in complete control of the Farm Lab and anything to do with growing.  We pay them $50,000 per year from our school budget. The Foundation uses its own money and raised money from wealthy donors to do whatever they want to do to advance their goals both here in San Diego and in Israel.

The Quail Botanical Gardens and the San Dieguito Heritage Museum both depend on public support to pay admission and to donate funds to keep them open.  They are both falling way short of that goal which explains their dependence on the Leitchtag Foundation.

The YMCA is huge national non‐profit organization.  The Executive Director that signed the agreement just resigned after local pressure from their board about what direction to take the Y.  We aren’t sure what that does to the E3 agreement. Seacrest Village is a senior living complex owned by Leitchtag. And the EUSD is a public elementary school district with 9 schools K‐6 and 5,400 children.

Conclusion

Why is the Encinitas Union School District, an elementary school district comprised of 5,400 5‐ 12 year olds, now so deeply aligned with the Leitchtag Foundation’s E3 Cluster?  EUSD is funded by taxpayer funds and money raised by parents.  We are a State run public school not a private Foundation.  The Board’s task is to educate our children and prepare them for Middle School and High School.  We are no longer an agrarian society and your children will probably not choose a career in agriculture.  If they did Farm Lab will not help them and that is not a reason to sink Millions of dollars into this.  This clearly isn’t about food.

The Superintendent is hired by the EUSD Board to run the 9 schools in our District.  He has other goals for Farm Lab that fit into his financial, political and ideological ambitions.  The Board blindly follows his lead down this rabbit hole voting unanimously to enable his insane spending on projects that are ridiculous as they are irrelevant to their goal as a Board of Education.  They must be aligned with Baird’s political and ideological beliefs and perhaps that is why they brought him here from Ojai in 2009.

Baird has been appointed by Leitchtag to design a new 9,000 sq. ft. Education and Entertainment Pavilion inside the Botanical Garden.  It is one of the Crown Jewels of the E3 Cluster.  It is a large conference center which will most likely be used by Leitchtag but the illusion is that we will port our kids there for many functions.  Truthfully, our students will hardly ever use this facility.

Why are we spending millions of taxpayer dollars here?  Why are we so deeply aligned with this large Jewish Foundation?  How will the kids get to this Pavilion?  Parents are the only form of transportation we have for any activities.  What Education will they get at this facility and from whom?  We already have 9 schools.  Each already has a garden.  The buildings are nearly falling down but now they have solar power!  Why are we involved in all of this?   Do you want your child to be a social justice activist or proficient in Math, English and Science?

Regardless of your religious, political or ideological beliefs, this is the wrong priority for your tax money.  We need to realize that this is an enormous financial boondoggle using your tax money to further political and ideological agendas, just like Facial Recognition software was.  Again they have prioritized these personal ideological crusades over basic educational needs of the teachers and the students and are placing the onus on the parents to raise more money or pass another Bond.  Yes, they are planning more bond propositions.  Baird appears to be building his resume by being the first in the nation for anything and get awards from anyone.  He is a beacon for the wealthy that want to access our education system and he forgets his obligation to educate our children.  So does the Board and so do many of us from time to time.